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”The Moment You Cheat for the Sake of Beauty, You Know You’re an Artist.” – David Hockney

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Screen-grab from Randall Wright’s ”Hockney” (2014), via YouTube

 

David Hockney (born 1937), is an Englishman, a painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer. He is one of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st century.

Hockney’s greatness flows from openly following his own desires, including his attraction to other men, while exploring the ways art and life feed each other, visually and emotionally.

Hockney’s best work has a crazy energy and brashness. Forthright joy and forward motion are the dynamics in much of his work. He uses color and line with moxie. I am crazy for all of his work, but the Hockney that I love best is the late 1960s-1970s painter of sunny California skies, swimming pools, palm trees and boys. His work in this period seems to me to be a modernist painterly slant on color Polaroids and snapshots from the life I was brushing up against when I lived in L.A. in the early 1970s. I sometimes attended an all-boy pool party at a famous producer’s home in the Hollywood Hills and one time Hockney was another of the guests. I couldn’t believe it! There he was, wearing a red baseball cap over his shaggy blonde hair, beige baggy pants, a yellow and red striped shirt with a white collar and yellow striped tie, a yellow watchband, red socks and white Jack Purcell’s. Perched on his proper English nose were his trademark round spectacles. He was holding a sketch book and a Polaroid camera. He was alone and mostly ignored by the parade of boys.

”Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures)” 1972, Photograph from ”Hockney” via YouTube

 

We did not speak to each other. I was at this event as the host’s special guest and I was careful not to overstep the bounds of propriety, but we did make eye contact. I like to think that if we had spoken, Hockney would have liked me and I might have become the subject of one his works, possibly the beginning of a series of ”Hairy Boy” pieces.

When I asked our host if Hockney might desire some attention, he told me that the artist was not so much reticent, as always working, always thinking and planning. He explained that Hockney balanced a hedonistic side; enjoying attending his parties, but the famous artist almost always left an event to rush back to his studio. The host thought I would be amused to know that Hockney had a sign at the door of his studio that read:

”Thank You For Pot Smoking”

Hockney has a home and studio in London and two residences in California, where he has lived on and off for over 35 years: one in Nichols Canyon, and an office and archives on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.


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